I started collecting data and monitoring my sleep for the Sleepiness Diary assignment around the end of August. That’s exactly the time when the school began, which is also the only major component that has changed as far as factors that could affect my sleep are concerned. My work schedule which is mostly every other Wednesday and every other weekend from Friday through Saturday from 11pm through 730am has remained the same for few years now. Until I started this Introduction to Sleep course, I knew very little things about sleep I never considered my sleep to be abnormal nor did I hear anywhere, whether in college courses or on television, the perils of sleep disorder. Since reading through the first few chapters of the book The Promise of Sleep by Dr William Dement and Christopher Vaughan and analyzing my sleep through the Sleepiness Diary, I realized my sleep habits may need little changes.
During the first week (Fig 1) of observing my own sleep through the diary, on most part I started to sleep in the morning and later during the weekend I started sleep in the early afternoon. But overall there was no concrete pattern to show during which part of the week I slept most since my total sleep time varied from six and half hours to eight and half hours during that week. During the second week (Fig 2), however, I started sleeping in the afternoon every day except Thursday when I took many short naps. I believe that day I had many things in my mind, both that are joyful as well as sad; so I couldn’t sleep continuously. But the total amount of sleep that day was 9 hours, alongside the weekend because I didn’t have to work that weekend. Otherwise, I was averaging seven and half hours like I did the first week.
One of the biggest differences between the first week and the second week was that I dozed off and fell asleep without meaning to almost every time during the second week; whereas, I only did that only one time in the first week. Now this one is very unexplainable because the amount of sleep I averaged each day during the second week was almost similar to the first week, and I also don’t remember any unusual events taking place in my life during the second week. An explanation about this difference may actually lie in the time during which I slept for long hours and the time I dozed off and fell asleep without meaning to. As Dr Dement mentioned in the textbook, we are more alert in the morning waking time and late in the afternoon. This is due to clock-dependent alerting mechanism. But the clock slacks of between these two peaks alertness and we can’t stay awake if we have incurred an unmanaged amount of sleep dept and is called post-prandial drowsiness. So this process answers the question why I was dozed off more during the second week even though the total amount of sleep I got during the first and second week was alike. During the second week, I was sleeping in afternoon and waking up around midnight the time during which I alertness level will be minimum.
Besides sleep diary, I also evaluated my sleep using the Epworth Scale. My score on that scale was only 4 which was a big surprise because I have been averaging less than 8 hours of total sleep and often those 8 hours of sleep are not accomplished in one session but instead by adding together multiple small 3 or 4 hours long sleep. This score of 4 is from moderate chance of dozing while watching TV and moderate chance of lying down to rest in the afternoon. The score will be 2 if the watching TV while lying down were put together in the same category since I watch TV while lying in the couch. In other situations, however, I rarely dozed off, whether it is sitting and reading, sitting inactive in a public place, riding as a car passenger, sitting and talking to someone, sitting quietly after a lunch or in a traffic stopped car. According to the Epworth Sleepiness scale key, I am getting enough sleep since my score is between 1 and 6.
Therefore, to function at optimal level my total number of sleep has to be around 8 hours. But if the total number goes less than less than seven and eight hours or if I only sleep in small chunks of hours, I not only cannot function properly but also fall at risk for endangerment as evident by dozing off and falling asleep without meaning to during those times. Fortunately, I have not lost total control of my sleep since I only dozed off while laying down on couch and watch TV. Sometimes when I don’t watch to miss TV shows and realize I am drowsy, I drink Mountain Dew as a countermeasure. I have also used light, both artificial electric light as well as natural sunlight, in the evening for Phase Delay and Morning for Phase Advance.
My initial plan to optimize my alertness is to develop a healthy sleep routine. The sleep routine doesn’t have to take place at the same time every day since it is not possible due to my occasional night work schedule and morning classes in the college. However, the routine will be to avoid sleeping in the couch since I cannot sleep longer than 4 hours on the couch before waking up, which is not the case if I sleep in the bed. I also need to make sure I do get at least 8 hours of sleep within 24 hour period and after 16 hours of wakefulness. Dr Dement and Vaughan described a case in the textbook where people who were woken up every few minutes or hours during the night didn’t have a quality sleep. Also, since the REM sleep doesn’t take place in a normal sleep until Non-REM is already gone through in a sleep cycle, waking up within few hours will prevent one from arriving at REM sleep. I would also like to ease up an hour or half-an-hour before going to bed so that I won’t have to stay awake in the bed for long hours and develop anxiety about not being able to sleep.
Dement, W. C., & Vaughan, C. (2000). The promise of sleep, a pioneer in sleep medicine
explores the vital connection between health, happiness, and a good night’s sleep. New York, NY: Dell Books.